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Were You Close? a sister's quest to know the brother she lost


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A sister's journey to find herself within the ashes of what might have been

Imagine going about your daily activities when someone calls to say your a family member has been reported missing. Initially you think nothing of it, knowing this is someone you don't have regular contact with, an experienced mountaineer with a thirst for adventure. As time goes on doubts start to sink in and then, several days later, the unthinkable; the discovery of a body.

Were You Close? by Anne Pinkerton is one sister's reconciliation with the tragic loss of her older brother David, whose sudden death in 2008 shook the lives of her and her extended family to its core. Titled after the grinding repetition small talk with people offering sympathy, including the question "were you close?", the starting place for Pinkerton's book is in the memories of growing up as the baby sister of the family, half-sibling to older brothers David and Tommy. Memories of visiting David in his medical coat in a radiology department is spliced with the immediate aftermath of his death in equally clinical fashion. As the book progresses we see as the dust settles and the family come to terms with life beyond grief, Pinkerton herself begins to explore her own choices in life and her relationships with other members in her extended family.

Pinkerton's combination of memoir and semi-biographical epic is beautifully executed in this book. It highlights the pain sudden and unexpected loss, alongside the struggles of being seen in a societal construct that tends to plant heightened concern over the wellbeing of spouses and children. Yet David had neither of those (although he did have a girlfriend). This book wraps itself around acceptance of the unknown and one woman's journey to find herself through the ashes of what might have been with the brother she lost.

The writing quality in this book is exceptional and moving. The book moves at the right pace to ensure the right topics get more air time while others are briefly mentioned to cover the event itself and the ten years following. We are routing for Pinkerton when she decides to enrol on a Masters degree for creative writing, we feel her concern and frustration when a localised hurricane delays David's memorial service. By the last chapter you will struggle to find a dry eye in the house. Nobody could have written this story better.

A cleverly positioned book for those who enjoy inspirational memoirs as much as emotionally charged ones, Were You Close? is the perfect companion for those cosy nights and a good cup of peppermint tea.

AEB Reviews

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“Were You Close?”

About the author

Anne Pinkerton studied poetry at Hampshire College and received an MFA in creative nonfiction from Bay Path University. She has been published in Modern Loss, Hippocampus Magazine, The Bark, the anthology The Pandemic Midlife Crisis: Gen X Women on the Brink, and elsewhere. view profile

Published on April 11, 2023

Published by Vine Leaves Press

60000 words

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by